Tuesday, 28 August 2012
After pulling out of both the Olympics and now the US Open due to his perpetual problems with tendonitis, Rafael Nadal's future and longevity in the game has once again come into question. Although his chronic tendonitis has not derailed him substantially since 2009 when he was forced to miss Wimbledon, this is the first time since then that he has pulled out of a major, temporarily curtailing his pursuit of Roger Federer's all time Grand Slam tally, which stands at 17. Following the French Open and another tremendous season on clay, it looked as if he was returning to his best form and poised to finish the year with multiple slams, but instead he was ousted unceremoniously at Wimbledon by one hit wonder Lukas Rosol, and now will have to wait patiently till next season to resume the chase. The patience Nadal has in abundance as one of the most stoical and philosophical players on the tour, but the ground lost could be quite substantial by the start of the next year.
Nadal however has said very wisely that ranking is the least of his concerns. Recuperation is paramount for him and as we have seen in the past, he has been able to recover and come back even stronger each time after being derailed by injury. Furthermore, his doctor has said that the injury is not a serious career-ending one, but that it requires a substantial amount of rest. To look at it from a coldly objective perspective, the scenario is better than would the news have been the dreaded prelude to the end of his career - thankfully for Nadal and his legions of fans, his career has not been entirely and definitely decided by his injuries, yet .
Some have suggested that Nadal should start skipping all non-mandatory events and perform at the bare minimum of Masters series tournaments to save himself for the Grand Slams, similar to the Williams sisters approach to the women's tour. Perhaps he may have to out of necessity, but for Nadal, who hungers for match practice and wins, it seems completely opposite to the way he plays and treats the game. Very much a momentum player, a lack of match fitness outside of the Grand Slams would possibly be damaging for his overall game. I cannot see Nadal doing something as drastic as foregoing all non-mandatory events, but as he is doing now, continue preserving his health and thinking of the future so as to avoid an irreparable injury.
For slightly more selfish reasons, people and myself included miss Nadal because it is simply not the same without him. The US Open which has been underway for two days now still feels as if there is a huge gap which his presence normally fills in Grand Slams; it's the energy, the insatiable tenacity, the indomitable will to win and the sheer excitement of seeing Nadal hit his signature, outrageous passing shots that make people miss him so much. He says he would like to return, if healthy, to play the next Davis Cup fixture for Spain - here's hoping he recovers with and rejoins the company of his top 4 peers with the utmost alacrity.